43 for 43!

On my birthday… Top 43 things I’ve done in my 43 years:

1. Given birth without any drugs. Some of the most excruciating pain I’ve experienced but the miracle and grace of both childbirths cannot be described.

2. Rode the Beast at Kings Island without completely soaking myself.

3. Married my hubby. Some of the most excruciating pain at times (ha) but his humor and love for family surpasses anyone’s on the planet. He is my number one supporter and I’m so glad I get to share this life with him.



4. Swam with a shark! Yes, only a three foot shark but still, a shark!

5. Traveled with my dad and Meg on family vacations to Michigan and Washington. I would pout up a storm as a teenager about having to go and now I am so grateful for those memories and for instilling a deep appreciation of nature the outdoors in me.

6. Parasailing! I would never do it with Jon in Cancun but Ri convinced me in Florida. I was scared sh–less but I did it.DSC03900

7. Watched my sister give birth to my niece. It was one if the most tender, intimate, amazing experiences of my life, and it was kinda nice not to have to push and struggle in order to see the birth!


8. Walked with Ri and Mario as infants in the Baby Bjorn. I still can feel their tiny head resting on my chest and their baby feet cupped in my hands.

9. Finished a marathon! I would have never done it without Sarah asking me to run it with her. Hell from mile 15 on but it was like childbirth: hell going through it and within ten minutes afterwards, you are ready to do it again!

10. Trips to my Grandma Menkedick’s house. She never disappointed. Always had chips and cookies to share and hilarious stories about card games with her friends or vacations she took. She was a true grandma in the sense of the word and we loved each other dearly. As I laid with her in her final days, she continued to whisper “you were a good granddaughter, Mary.” And I made sure she knew she was a beautiful grandmother.IMG_0351

11. Danced with a turkey in Mexico. That’s right. At Sarah’s and Jorge’s wedding. Mexican tradition we were told. My dad and I had drank enough Mezcal to not care whether it was tradition or not.

12. Taught aerobics. I was no Jane Fonda but I taught a mean class for a while.

13. Traveled to New York with my mom in my early 20’s. What a hoot we had between seeing Phil Donahue in person and getting hit on by New York construction workers.

14. Spent a lot of time with my Heile aunts. These women showed me love, let me watch inappropriate movies and listen to disco music, played card games with me, fed me junk food, let me spend the night, and listened to me ramble on and on about my superball collection and my stuffed animals. They will all be sainted for that.

IMG_9012 15. Took a 40th birthday vacation with my long-time girlfriends to Italy. Nothing like connecting with old friends over wine, the Italian countryside, and home-cooked meals.IMG_0250



16. Coached girls’ softball. I love watching these girls gain confidence in themselves and support one another. And it’s awesome spending time with my girl.IMG_9407
17. Hosted a surprise 60th birthday party for my mama. She is the last person to ask for pampering and I was thrilled to give her some.

18. Biked 100 miles in Pelotonia to support cancer research. On a mountain bike even!

19. Took an 8th grade class trip on a bus to Washington DC. Everyone has got to partake in that experience once in their lives.

20. Kissed a dolphin. One of Jon and I’s favorite excursions in Cancun.

21. Watched my brother act in a play at Ohio State and jam it out with his musical band on stage. He is an artist in every sense of the word and I marvel at his talent. I love how Ri proudly brags “my Uncle Jack is famous because he has a CD.”

22. Bought a gorgeous home in Grandview that is already filed with hundreds of memories of times with kids and family and friends (Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations are the best!).IMG_6905

23. Had a super short 80’s spiked-on-one-side haircut that I will never ever have again.

24. Stood front row in a field in Ireland and watched Michael Jackson perform a full two hour long concert.

25. Caught a baseball thrown to me by my favorite Reds player of all time, Dave Parker, and completed a 5K that ended in the Reds Stadium (and won first place in my division!).IMG_3718

26. Wrote to Anna Quindlen after the birth of Maria telling her how much that her article in Newsweek about her daughter, Maria, deeply affected me. She wrote me a thoughtful letter in return. Cherish.

27. Went sled riding down Wyman Woods hill with Maria and Mario nearly every Winter – even when there was barely any snow and a lot of molehills that had my butt bone aching for days.IMG_7550

28. Hunted turkeys with Jon at 5 am in the morning. Nothing like spacing out to a gorgeous tangerine sunrise only to be awakened by rifle shots and turkeys squawking.

29. Entered a hot legs contest but came in second. Allegedly it was rigged for the girl who won first to win it – that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

30. Took in the Grand Canyon with Jon and the kids.  One day we will head back and hike to the bottom and back up.  IMG_2524
31. Got my law degree. I wish I could change careers every three years but this degree has done me well.

32. Participated in the Day of the Dead celebration in Oaxaca with my mom and sis and Jorge. The reverence and beauty in the celebrations of their deceased is beautiful.

33. Flew right next to the pilot in a tiny airplane from Key West to some city in Florida I cannot recall. But I can recall the amazing sunset that occurred before my eyes. Both terrified of the flight and mesmerized by the beauty of the falling sun.

34. Dipped my legs into the Arctic Ocean. Jon dipped his entire body and shivered for four hours afterwards (even with 30 minutes in a steam room).

35. Petted an alligator. The kids got a kick out of this adventure – where else but off the highway in Florida.

36. Nursed my babies. It didn’t last long and pumping was a bit– but the experience while it lasted created such a peaceful intensity.

37. Strollered my babies everywhere the first five years of their lives. God, I loved that BOB. It took us to the river to throw rocks, up to Giant Eagle for donuts, all around Grandview for me to get my run in, through Blue Ash to get Marx Bagels, to the parks. I was depressed for a good month when Mario would no longer ride in it.20141106-213506.jpg

38. Saw Prince in concert twice. Once in 6th grade with my mom – dressed in all purple and sat at the top of the coliseum and once with Jon and sat in the first 20 rows of the arena. Prince was sexy and amazing both times – total crush on him.

39. Witnessed Jorge get sworn in as a US citizen, and witnessed the joy and determination in the scores of immigrants’ faces who were joining Jorge in the process.  There was no way to not feel immense joy for the entire rest of the day.IMG_0633

40. Climbed the steps of the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh with Sarah and Ri.

41. Ate a fried grasshopper.

42. Jogged the 7 hills of Cincy race and ran up every hill.

43. Kept a blog so I can remember all these things. With each year, I forget more and more!

I by all means know how blessed I am to have been able to experience all I have in these past 43 years, and to possess such a richness of both family and friends. There’s no stopping me at 43 – can’t wait to see what’s on my list of things I’ve done at 86!



Running on pie

As I ran my same jogging course on Monday morning, I received a much-needed out-of-the-ordinary gem from NPR’s Allison Aubrey.  Aubrey hosted a segment on pie-making.  And although I do not have fond memories of my grandmother or my mom making homemade pies, it brought up a rush of good emotions as I continued down my jogging path.  Aubrey’s description of getting the pie crust just right – not kneading it and keeping little balls throughout it – made me yearn to travel to New York and take a class.  I appreciated the way that she intertwined her mother with her story of making a perfect pie. 

Like Aubrey, I don’t have memories of my mom slaving in the kitchen over a magnificent pie (she did make a heck of a peanut butter coconut ball though!).  But I do have memories of my father’s cherry pies.  I don’t remember him slaving away in the kitchen, however; I just have memories of eating delicious homemade cherry pie with him and my mom.  I remember helping pick cherries from our cherry tree out back, and suffering a nasty bee sting when I decided not to wear shoes one day.  But those pies were well worth it – dripping in cherry goo and always having a slight burnt edge around them.  Perfect crispiness.  

Food creates memories, and I associate my dad’s cherry pies with childhood summers full of running around outside and hanging with friends and walking the neighborhood.  Coincidentally, my husband likely associates his grandmother’s homemade pumpkin pies with exciting summers in Marietta.  His grandma made a mean pumpkin pie back in the day that Jon always raves about when we buy pumpkin pie during Fall.  “Nothing beats my grandma’s pumpkin pie” he always tells me.  My mother-in-law also bakes a stupendous homemade pumpkin pie, and it is by far the best I have ever tasted (I didn’t get to meet Jon’s grandma before she passed).  Patty learned how to make her pie from her mother.  Indeed, so many of the recipes that Patty has she received from her mom, and you can feel the love in the room when Patty talks about her mom and her cooking.  

When the segment wrapped up with Aubrey’s daughter and mother in the kitchen tasting Aubrey’s blueberry pie, I resolved that I would begin a baking tradition with Maria and Mario.  I love how those resolutions wash over me so quickly and resolutely while I am out in the open air free from all constraints and time lines and chores.  “Maybe I will even sign up for a class with M&M and Jon or my mom or dad or stepmom or mother-in-law.  The ideas were flowing.

Then I got home and realized I was late for a meeting.  I ran upstairs to shower and get dressed.  Mario had Maria in a head lock and Maria was smacking his head.  When I came downstairs to leave, milk laid all over the table and cereal remnants were across the floor.  A pack of goldfish were torn apart and chocolate sauce stuck to the counter.  I asked them why everything was a mess. 

“We wanted to make breakfast ourselves, mom, so you didn’t need to be bothered.”  And then I looked down and saw a bowl with a bright beaming yellow glob laying in it.  Maria surprised me with microwaved eggs.  She had broken two eggs into a bowl and stuck them in the microwave for a minute and a half. She fed me a bite and asked how they were. 

“Delicious!” I told her.  She looked at Mario and gave him a high-five. 

And so, my cooking ventures may start out slow and different than planned, but we will get there…eventually!

My Achin’ Feet

We are a servant to the new house.  It rules over our every move.  It works us to the bone. 

Jon and I are exhausted with a big ol’ capital E.  Our bodies just ache and our feet could be rubbed for days and still not feel ready to pound the street.  Jon has been absolutely amazing with the new house.  He wanted to be in charge of the entire master bedroom project and all of the direction relating to the painting and molding and touch-ups in the other rooms.  He had some great helpers (shout out to Jason and Dave) but he really kicked it up a huge notch to get our master bedroom and the rest of the house together prior to our move on Tuesday.  He reinforced his reputation as “the boss” during the last month – he certainly had to ream our helpers a few times to get ’em moving or lead them in an organizational meeting to put their heads around what they needed to do first, second, third….  But he also created a reputation for himself as a hard and dedicated worker, willing to make five trips to the hardware store or paint trim or carry drywall.  He has put some serious sweat and energy into our new home, which makes me love our new home even more. 

Maria dusting

Maria and Mario have been so great through all of this business, too.  Maria helped me pack (she found a little vase box and shoved her undies and Mario’s undies in it; taped it; and then proceeded to write (Maria’s undeez and Mario’s).  She loves to write with a permanent marker so she helped us detail the items in each box.  She is getting better at spelling but I have to admit, I still love to see how she spells certain words that don’t sound anyway like they are spelled (e.g., kichen and cloos (kitchen and clothes)).  She also did a great job dusting; she finds it a challenge to try to get cabinet knobs as sparkling clean as possible and desk tops looking new.  I think she also loves spraying the Endust can everywhere.  She had the choice to head to her friend’s b-day party on Saturday morning or help pack and she wanted to pack.  It was only after I talked with her about the fun she would miss out on and the fact that we would be packing all day that she went to the party.  She rode her new bike all they way there with me only holding onto her on the hills and at the corners of streets.  She is getting so big!  And once we got there, I wanted to stay!  Her friend’s mom made a sheet cake with skewers of timbits poked throughout it.  Cinnamon rolls, too!  Heaven. If only a gallon of chocolate ice cream was beside it, I would have planted myself right there for the day. 

Mario doesn’t quite put forth the effort that Maria does in helping to pack or clean.  He uses all of his energy playing Wii sports or watching tv.  He has gotten his share of tv shows in the last few weeks because that is how we keep him busy while we clean, pack, and clean some more.  It keeps him in one spot so I don’t have to worry about where he ran off to in the neighborhood.  Hopefully, not all of his brain cells have been killed off.  We test him every once in a while with a hard question, and he responds correctly so I think he is fine.  He will play Wii tennis and boxing and golf for an hour or more.  He gets so competitive with the computer and he still spends a good amount of time “creating” his player.  The boy has to look super cool before he will play a game (which usually means black spiked hair, tinted glasses, and super skinny).  He also has gotten into the Barbie.com games based on Maria’s fascination with them.  He sang “I’m a Barbie girl” while waiting in Stauf’s coffee line yesterday and then proudly showed off a kickin’ purple dress he placed on a barbie.

Mario keeping busy with the Barbie.com game

I have not talked to either of the kids about the move much.  Jon and I ask if they are excited to move and both say “yes; Maria emphatically so.  I try to remind them that this current house has given us a lot of memories and there will be times they miss it very much.  Mario just shrugs his shoulders and moves on but Maria seems to process it and explain it more to Mario.  The other day when I told them we would be moving soon and asked how they felt, Mario responded “fine, mom.”  Maria turned him around to face her and said “Mario, mom and dad brought you and me home to this house when we were little babies and watched us walk in this house and get older.”  I had just mentioned all of those things to her the day before when I talked with her about why I sometimes got sad about moving.  God love her.  Between the two of us, hopefully Mario will get some of our compassion!

And so, here we are.  Two days away from moving into our new home and sleeping in our new rooms, and waking up to our new street.  I feel exhilarated while at the new house and melancholy while at the old one.  Tomorrow, I am going to come home early, sit in the living room of this current house and soak in all of the energy and memories and love and laughter swirling around this darling home.  And then I am going to plant myself in the family room of our new house and release all of it into the air for our new home to soak up.